This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, the songs they want played at their funeral. This time, we got on Pacific Standard Time to chat with Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino about Always Tomorrow, the band’s first album in five years. Since Cosentino joined up with Bobb Bruno in 2009, Best Coast has remained an indie rock staple, even during its hiatus. Cosentino in particular, with her grounding growl and seventies soft-rock sensibilities, has been nearly impossible to forget. Here, she shares the band she wishes would get back together, the Fleetwood Mac album she’ll never be over, and the songs she’d sing if she was driving coast-to-coast. That is, from best to worst.
JADIE STILLWELL: Can you talk a little bit about how this album came into being?
BETHANY COSENTINO: Basically, I started trying to write for this record three years ago. We had just gone on tour for California Nights and we were touring that record for almost a year and a half and when we got back I was trying to take a bit of a break. It’s always crazy when you get home from tour because you’re like, “Oh okay, cool, I’m just done now.” So I was trying to write, but I just wasn’t feeling super inspired. And then I had this moment where I realized like, “Oh wow, I am really creatively blocked. I cannot get anything out.” Then I wrote “Everything Has Changed” and I felt like that was the first song that I was really proud of in awhile. That was the first song. Then, two years after that, songs started to slowly trickle in and the record became an actual thing. This is the longest a record has ever taken for us to make. And I think it took so long because I was going through some stuff and I needed to focus on myself and take care of myself, and then the songs came through that experience.
STILLWELL: When you wrote “Everything Has Changed,” had things changed by that point or was it a kind of prophetic look into the future for you?
COSENTINO: It was definitely prophetic. At the time, it felt like things had changed. I was living in a different house. My location had changed, some things were different. But the energy of that song sounds like a person who’s had this crazy breakthrough and is feeling like, “Oh my God, I’m on top of the world. I love my life now.” And it was…not that way. I was really, really, deeply miserable when I wrote that song. But it was almost a vision of what my life could look like. I think it’s really cool that I wrote it at a time where I wasn’t feeling incredibly confident or happy with life because I do feel good about my life now. So it’s fun to think about it in this way where it’s like, “Oh wow, I get to sing the lyrics now as a person who actually feels it as opposed to when I wrote it, when it was a bit of a fake thing. It’s cool to be in a place now where I can sing it and really mean it.
STILLWELL: You manifested that change into existence.
COSENTINO: I know. I’m a big witch.
STILLWELL: I’ve seen you say elsewhere that you don’t want this album necessarily to be defined by your sobriety, which makes sense, but how would you like it to be defined?
COSENTINO: I think it’s really a record about a journey. I start the record off with this song called “Different Light” that’s very much about saying, “I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles, I’ve gotten to this place in my life. I’ve had to do a very thorough evaluation of myself. And it works for me.” But everybody doesn’t have the same journey and it doesn’t all happen at the same time. Because at the end of the day, it’s like, yeah, I’ve been sober for two years. I have done a lot of work on myself. I’m in a much better place. But I’m also still a human and I still deal with self-doubt. I still deal with insecurity. I still deal with all the shit that, unfortunately, just as human beings, we deal with. So it’s really a record about personal journey. But I always try to make music that can be interpreted any which way. I just hope that people can listen to it and take away from it that change is possible. You just have to work really fucking hard for it.
STILLWELL: The title is perfect for that idea too, Always Tomorrow. Because it’s not about perfection, it’s just about moving forward.
STILLWELL: Speaking of literally moving forward, what are some songs you would put on a road trip playlist? Maybe, say, if you were going coast-to-coast. Best to worst.
CONSENTINO: One of my favorite songs for driving, and this is going to come so out of left field is “Be Quiet and Drive” by Deftones. Deftones is one of my favorite bands and I feel like people are always confused by that. But when I was in junior high, I just got so into Deftones. I loved them. And I love that song so much. It’s a really romantic song, weirdly. So that song, for sure, and “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young because it’s just one of the best songs ever. And it’s a sing-along and I just feel like it’s a really beautiful song when you’re driving through the desert or mountains. “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow, one of my favorite songs of all time. Nobody can resist that song.
STILLWELL: This is an amazing playlist so far.
CONSENTINO: But it’s very confusing, tonally. There’s an Everly Brothers song called “Always It’s You” that I love. It’s just super romantic and beautiful and very minimal. If I ever get married, I want to play it at my wedding. It’s one of my favorite songs.
STILLWELL: That would’ve been one of the other questions, but you just answered it.
STILLWELL: It would have been what you would want to play at your wedding…or at your funeral.
COSENTINO: For a funeral, I’ve always really wanted “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville because I would just want everybody to kind of just be like, “Well, this is what was up with her.” And then just kind of tell it how they feel, just go for it.
STILLWELL: What about songs that you would play if you were having a beach party?
COSENTINO: Well, definitely Beach Boys. Oh god, I’m blanking on Beach Boys songs that I like, which is every song. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is probably a really good song for the beach. It’s just so classic and it feels very beachy. I’m obsessed with this one Rooney song called “I’m Shakin’.” It’s such a classic power-pop song, which gives me beach vibes. And then maybe “True Blue” by Madonna. one of my favorite Madonna songs—it has an almost a’60s beach girl feel.
STILLWELL: What about a playlist—this is a totally different vibe—for crying in your bedroom?
COSENTINO: Hmm. I’m trying to remember. I’m like, “I’ve done that a billion times.” Definitely “Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac. I can’t hear that one without choking up every time.
STILLWELL: I feel like “Landslide” shouldn’t be casually played on radios. You need to be warned before you’re exposed to “Landside,” like, in public.
COSENTINO: I know. I was at the post office one time and it came on and I just started weeping. I went to the car and just cried. And I was like, “It’s not my fault!” Also, “Drive” by The Cars is another one that I think is just so emotional and beautiful. And, weirdly, “I Wanna be Adored” by The Stone Roses really makes me sad. I think it makes me remember certain times in relationships where I just wanted … that. I would listen to it and think, “I wish my boyfriend would care about me this much.” So that one, too.
STILLWELL: What about the last song you listened to?
COSENTINO: The last song I listened to. Gosh. I just opened my Spotify because I’m going to need help. I last listened to this sleep playlist, actually. So my top artists on Spotify are literally ambient music.
STILLWELL: I love that.
COSENTINO: Honestly, I listen to so much yacht rock and soft rock. So much ’70s classic music. The last thing I listened to before my sleep playlist was “I’m Not In Love” by 10cc, which is truly one of my favorite songs ever.
STILLWELL: What about a song that always puts you in a good mood?
COSENTINO: “Sister Golden Hair” by America. It’s the best song.
STILLWELL: Knee-jerk response. What about the most memorable concert you’ve ever been to?
COSENTINO: When I went to see Fleetwood Mac at The Forum in LA. It was like the first tour that they had done once Christine McVie came back in the band. I sobbed the entire time. Like, the whole night.
STILLWELL: I am, from the bottom of my heart, so jealous.
COSENTINO: They’re my favorite band of all time. I grew up on them. My mom was very stylistically inspired by Stevie Nicks. They’ve been with me my whole life. So that show was just life-changing.
STILLWELL: That’s amazing. I feel like you might have already answered my next question: What’s an album or artist you would want to pass down to your children?
COSENTINO: Definitely Mirage by Fleetwood Mac. It’s my favorite Fleetwood Mac record and I listen to it constantly. I know every single lyric, I know the order of songs. I am obsessed with that record.
STILLWELL: Why is Mirage your favorite? I feel like a lot of people would say Rumors or even Tusk, so why Mirage?
COSENTINO: I actually did this thing a couple of years ago where a music publication had me write about Mirage and why I loved it so much. It’s ’80s Fleetwood Mac, so it was kind of when they were veering a little bit more towards pop territory. But I think some of the best Fleetwood Mac songs are on that album. “That’s Alright” is one of my favorite songs ever written. The lyrics are so amazing and the message of the song is so great. I also love “Hold Me.” The harmonies on that song are amazing. And then there’s a Lindsey Buckingham song called “Oh Diane,” which is so cool.
STILLWELL: Oh, girl, I know it. I know it.
COSENTINO: It’s so good. There’s not a skip worthy song on that album. Even “Empire State,” which is my least favorite song on the record, I still listen through and love. Tango in the Night‘s another great one. I just love Fleetwood Mac when they’re being weird and kind of obscure for themselves, you know?
STILLWELL: Yes, exactly. It makes for such great music. What about a band that you would like to get back together or an artist you could bring back from the dead?
COSENTINO: Oh. Hmm.
STILLWELL: Would you like Fleetwood Mac to un-fire Lindsey Buckingham?
COSENTINO: That one is complicated for me because I know the issues. I’ve watched and read every Fleetwood Mac biography and documentary. So, on some level, I’m like, “I get it.” But I’m also like, “You can’t have Fleetwood Mac without Lindsey Buckingham.” You really can’t.
STILLWELL: Exactly. They’re old. They’ve gotta get over it.
COSENTINO: I know, I know. Also the Eagles. Luckily, I got to see the Eagles when they came back and The Forum in LA had just reopened. I went and saw them and it was every original member. It was so amazing. I know they play now with Glenn Frey’s son, but yeah, the original Eagles. And then the original Fleetwood Mac. But I would want both bands to play together.
STILLWELL: Show of a lifetime. If your life was a TV show, what would the theme song be?
COSENTINO: Oh, jeez. These are good. I’m trying to think about what I would want the vibe to be. Honestly, I feel like I would want it to be “Range Life” by Pavement because that’s my favorite Pavement song. I like listening to it in the car. I always sing along to it, and it’s kind of like country-ish. The guitar part is one of my favorites. So I feel like it would be an instrumental opening to “Range Life.”
STILLWELL: If you were to have dinner with four musical artists, who would they be? It could be anyone, dead or alive, past, present, whatever.
COSENTINO: Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks.
STILLWELL: Ugh, Linda!
COSENTINO: I know. Linda is my favorite.
STILLWELL: I would love to attend that dinner.
COSENTINO: You’re invited, come on down.
STILLWELL: I’ll see you there. In a similar vein, who would be your dream collaborator?
COSENTINO: Roy Orbison, I think.
STILLWELL: Why Roy?
COSENTINO: He just has seriously some of the most beautiful songs and melodies ever written. And the voice. I listen to Roy Orbison songs sometimes and just think, how did he even hit some of these notes? How did he even come up with some of these melodies? I feel like Roy Orbison songs are so painful and beautiful, and he inspires me in this way where it’s like a lot of his kind of more upbeat songs, you think they’re happy, but then you listen to the lyrics and they’re really sad and dark. And I relate to that because I feel like I do that in my own songwriting. I think Roy and I would have written a really fucking beautiful sad pop song if we had the chance.
STILLWELL: Do you sing in the shower? And if you do, what do you sing?
COSENTINO: It’s funny. Usually, when I sing in the shower, I’m doing vocal warm-ups.
STILLWELL: You have to do them somewhere.
COSENTINO: You do, and the shower is good because if I ever do them on tour and I know there are people around, I’m like, “Oh, people won’t hear it as well.” So I use the shower as the place to do it. But I’m literally never not singing an Eagles song. I feel like Eagles songs are the ones I’m always walking around singing. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” I’ve definitely sung in the shower, so let’s go with that one.
STILLWELL: That’s an anywhere kind of song. Do you have a favorite song that you’ve written?
COSENTINO: There’s a song off our second record called “Up All Night.”
STILLWELL: That’s my favorite song of yours.
COSENTINO: Thank you. That is so cool. I love it because it’s one of the simpler songs that I’ve ever written. But I feel like when I hear it, it sounds very classic. It sounds like a Phil Spector girl group from the ’50s of ’60s. Just so solid. That’s one that when I hear, I’m really proud of. And it’s one that, when I hear it, I really remember the way that I felt when I wrote it. It really sticks with me.
STILLWELL: How did you feel when you were writing it?
COSENTINO: You know that feeling of when you just can’t get someone out of your head and you just miss them and you wish that you could be with them? It’s that feeling of tossing and turning. Honestly, unhealthily obsessed is how I felt. Sort of codependent. But, I don’t know. I never listen to my own music—like ever in a million years. But that is one that came on a playlist recently, and I heard it and I was like, “Damn, this song is really good.”
STILLWELL: You’re like, “Who wrote that?”
COSENTINO I know.”What is this? Who is this?” I’m really proud of that song.
STILLWELL: Do you have a favorite song from the last decade?
COSENTINO: I think “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna. That song is so insane. And again, it fits into that sort of like that ’50s kind of like ’60s Phil Specter, beautiful haunting girl group thing.
STILLWELL: Okay, the last question, in the spirit of Always Tomorrow, is about looking forward. So: what do you think music will sound like in 50 years?
COSENTINO: Oh my god.
STILLWELL: It’s a big one.
COSENTINO: I think in 50 years, technology will be so different that there are almost no bounds to what it could sound like. It could sound like anything. Animals could be making music at that time. But I think, at the end of the day, what makes a song a song, what will always make music music, is melody. Melody is so important. When you hear a good melody and it’s one you can’t get out of your head? That’s the best. Hopefully, in the future, there will be music that still just has really beautiful, memorable melodies. And also dogs singing in the background. Because I’m sure by that point, they’ll figure out a way to give a dog a voice box and they’ll talk. But, truly, who knows what the fuck is going to happen in 50 years? I can’t think that far ahead.
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